It could be one of the greatest full-circles in American business history.
“It's kind of a crazy story, but I'm back,” said Jeffrey Soffer, the Chairman, and CEO of Fontainebleau Development, as he stood in front of the 67-story unfinished blue building that has dominated the Las Vegas skyline for more than a decade.
Soffer was here, along with dignitaries and other officials, for a commencement ceremony marking the official resumption of construction.
What a journey.
Soffer, the latest owner of the property, is actually its original owner, who saw his vision stalled by the Great Recession.
In between then and now came a couple of other owners. Earlier this year, Soffer got the Fontainebleau back.
“It’s a real honor to be back here, as I said. Honestly, when this came available, obviously timing is everything. To finish something that you started and come back in, do it better, and get it open, it's a real honor for me,” he told me Tuesday.
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Opening, he says, should be in two years in the fourth quarter of 2023.
A rendering of the finished property shows that it will look not much different than it does now, with its signature blue-windowed façade.
There will be tweaks, says Brett Mufson with Fontainebleau Development.
“We plan to establish the new standard for luxury in the marketplace,” he says, adding, “it's 15 years later, so we reimagine it.”
The property will open under the name Fontainebleau Las Vegas. The company has not released how much completion will cost, though it will have gaming.
Work began in 2007, stopped in 2009, and has stood mostly silent since at 75% complete. What kind of shape is the structure in, I asked.
“It's in great shape,” Mufson told me, due to our desert air which the company says has preserved much of the structure.
Work has actually already started again, taken over by the construction company that built Resorts World down the street and Allegiant Stadium.
And that's why Gov. Steve Sisolak came here Tuesday: He says this project means paychecks.
“What's so exciting is we’re talking over 3,000 construction jobs on this site right now -they're gonna be working – 6,000 permanent jobs that we desperately need,” says Sisolak, D-Nevada.
When Fontainebleau 1.0 stalled in 2009, financing dried up. For Fontainebleau 2.0, Soffer and his firm are partnering with the deep pockets of the real estate arm of Koch Industries.
“I don't think they have to borrow any money. I think they have the resources to do this. I was assured that they have the financial stability,” says Sisolak.
A lot has changed in 12 years since construction was stopped. The north end of the Strip is igniting, with a new convention center expansion next door and Resorts World now open across the Strip.
“This project is at the center of that,” LVCVA President and CEO Steve Hill told me.
So, full circle it is for Soffer and his company, who, in the space of 12 years, have outlasted a Recession and hopefully a pandemic. He stands closer than anyone has come to reopening a property that is one of the most famous in the city, one that plans for its first paying customer in two years.